ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Kera Smith

Saving the Sinking Ship

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Wellness Program Administrator
4+ years
5,000 Employees


As part of the Corporate Employee Wellness Team at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) , my priority is improving and encouraging the well-being of the employee population across the state of Tennessee and even throughout the nation. With over 5,000 employees, the Well@Work Wellness Program is diversified and customized for all stages of health.  We began to see a steady increase in employee health care costs, so it was imperative to establish a well-rounded Wellness Program that would not only aim to decrease health care spending but would create a culture that supports healthy living.

Leadership saw the need for health promotion at BCBST so the wheels of an official Wellness Program began to turn in 2009. From a simple Wellness 1.0 program consisting of biometric screenings and health coaching evolved a robust incentive program with fully integrated hybrid participation and outcomes based rewards. Employees are not only rewarded for having healthy numbers but for the activities and commitment it takes to reach those healthy numbers as well. Participation in the Well@Work Wellness Program has increased dramatically from 50 percent in 2011 to 89 percent in 2014.

As the Wellness Administrator, I oversee all of the pieces of the Well@Work program from the smallest detail of data reporting to large strategic vision. Coordinators of all Wellness Programs are the ‘boots on the ground’ and one of the most important roles in the implementation of any health-promoting event or long-term program.  To ensure a successful Wellness Program, it’s imperative that I jump feet-first into every aspect of what we’re offering employees; a ‘one-size-fits-all’ program wouldn’t accommodate our diverse employee population. I’ve learned that ‘knowing your audience’ (or in my case ‘employees’) is the first piece of key information we need in order to build an impactful Wellness Program. From there, we can begin tailoring our programs and events to what our employees will respond to on a continual basis.  Refining our health-promoting products, events and programs each year will not only improve engagement but will provide a fresh, new look!

Professional Development

I received a double major in Marketing and Management from the University of South Carolina and immediately jumped into a marketing role at a small real estate company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I quickly realized that I wanted to have real purpose in my life and career promoting something for which I cared deeply. As an active dancer and cheerleader, my passion was health and wellness.  After researching all health and fitness industries, I was granted the amazing opportunity to help the Corporate Wellness Team at BCBST build their wellness program and culture from the ground up. I recently received my MBA and will always be a student at heart. This health promotion industry is moving and changing so quickly, that I believe it is necessary to stay abreast of news, research, and what has made other company’s programs successful and innovative. I am a fan of Virgin Pulse, MobiHealthNews, WebMD, WELCOA and many more organizations and social media sites that share knowledge, connections and make them all accessible.

Demonstrated Success

If you were to walk down the hallway to our fitness center, the faces on the posters that line the wall are proof that the Well@Work Wellness Program is and will continue to be successful and impact employee lives. Each poster displays an employee photo and testimonial of their personal health challenges and how they transformed not only their bodies, but their entire lives. The mission of the BCBST Employee Wellness Program is to offer a variety of programs, free resources, group fitness classes and nutrition counseling and much more in order to better the health of our employees. Each aspect of our programming is created to meet employees where they are in their health needs and build upon health education, social support, and overall happiness.

 For instance, many employees have lowered their blood pressure through our Deep Water program and lost over 4000 pounds in our Thrive Fitness program. These programs are offered to employees at no cost and offer a holistic health approach for 10 weeks. The group dynamic among Thrive and Deep Water participants that evolves throughout those 10 weeks has resulted in lifelong friendships and holds employees even more accountable to their healthy lifestyle commitment. Employees have started their own support groups for celiac disease and bariatric surgery because they are eager to connect and support each other. Preventative screenings are highly utilized among our employees because they are available on-site, so employees can easily fit appointments in their schedule. We have found success is demonstrated through a decrease in claims cost when employees participate in multiple wellness program offerings. And through our successes internally, BCBST naturally created a Wellness Product Suite offering for BCBST members that incorporates an integrated approach for identifying the true health needs for a particular company, and catering products to help improve them.


Twenty years ago, BCBST offered free gym memberships to employees; this was not common at that time.  BCBST has been one of the first corporations to offer employees and millions of member’s resources to improve their health and support a healthy lifestyle.  The Employee Wellness team and BCBST demonstrate leadership in communities across Tennessee to share health education and financial support for many health initiatives.  BCBST participates in a number of Health Fairs that target minorities to ensure their access to preventative care is convenient and available at no cost.  Personally, I have grown throughout the past 4 years and my experience with the Employee Wellness Program allowed me to learn, grow, and lead continuously while promoting wellness to our employees.   I have naturally emerged as the leader of the Wellness team and that would not have been possible without relationships and genuine managers that showed me how effective leadership can be limitless.  My leadership style is open-minded, goal-driven, and I'm always willing to listen to other perspectives that can only help me understand and learn more.


Many of the employee wellness resources available to our employees are unique and special to BCBST.  We developed them in response to a highly diversified population with a span of acute and chronic health needs.  Among the top chronic diseases are cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Our targeted communications touch high risk employees and are fully integrated with our program offerings.  Massage therapy is subsidized by BCBST so employees pays a minimal fee, and no cost tai chi classes, stress management programs, and financial wellness have been highly utilized by employees for 5 years.

The Employee Wellness team and Onlife Health partnered together to develop a unique fitness and nutrition regimen program, Thrive, available to on-site employees at no cost.  Three more programs were born from the success of Thrive offering more options to employees and a truly unique health opportunity offered four times a year.  Our four fitness programs are tailored to different fitness and health needs ranging from various fitness abilities, to high touch group support and nutrition counseling.   In each program, employees realize weight loss, muscle gain, and blood pressure reduction within ten weeks.  The group dynamic among fitness program participants that evolves throughout those 10 weeks has resulted in lifelong friendships and holds employees even more accountable to their healthy lifestyle commitment.

In 2011, the Employee Wellness team saw the need for further integration, so we hired a Registered Dietician to work on-site and to be a free resource for all employees (throughout Tennessee).  The on-site registered dietician not only is available for one-on-one consultations (at no cost to employee), but she assists the on-site café, clinic, and fitness center at both strategic and logistical levels.  This allows us to truly integrate wellness resources and programs to the most customized level.  For example, the RD will reach out to an employee whose blood sugar results were pre-diabetic to discuss suggestions and customized next steps to reduce their glucose.

Compelling Vision

BCBST has always been a pioneer in the healthcare market.  Externally, the company focuses on health education for members, providers and the community through multimodal outreach, conferences, fairs, and more.  The partnership with Wellness Company, Onlife Health, gave BCBST the opportunity to offer Wellness resources, such as enhanced health coaching, to over 5000 employees and millions of members across the nation.  The Employee Wellness offerings and programming evolved quickly from 2005 to 2014 leveraging on-site resources and programming at the newly built Gold LEED certified facilities.  Cultivating a culture of health and wellness was the driving force for the BCBST employee program and through the support of all levels of leadership has transformed the health of employees.  Through tremendous internal experience, BCBST developed a robust Wellness Product line in 2011, BlueHealth Solutions, which builds upon employee past wellness offerings and a holistically integrated approach.

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